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Monday, 17 November 1997
Page: 8857

Senator HERRON (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs)(3.03 p.m.) —Senator Forshaw asked me a question last week. I seek leave to incorporate the answer in the Hansard .

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

Health Ministers Meeting

SENATOR FORSHAW —My question is directed to Senator Herron, the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Family Services. Why did the Minister for Health and Family Services, Dr Wooldridge, cancel the meeting of federal and state health ministers which was scheduled to be held on Friday, 7 November 1997? Was it because cabinet, unable to determine the issue of funding increases for public hospitals, resorted to its usual dithering ineptitude? Was the Queensland Minister for Health, Mr Horan, correct when he said that no explanation was offered as to why the meeting was cancelled? Did the meeting eventually proceed only because the state ministers had decided to meet regardless of whether or not the federal minister attended?

Dr Wooldridge did not cancel the meeting.

State and Territory Health Ministers met in the morning of Thursday, 6 November, and were joined by Dr Wooldridge in the afternoon.


SENATOR FORSHAW —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. I point out to the minister that I was nodding in agreement with the comments from Senator Crowley that, under the Labor government, funding was increased in real terms. It was your government that savagely slashed it in the last budget. Minister, it is obvious that you do not have much of an idea about the reasons why the meeting was originally cancelled. I also inform you that the meeting did, in fact, take place. I ask you: did the government at that revived meeting respond to the demand by the states that the $200 million surplus from the gun buy-back scheme be put into the public health system?

The meeting was a closed discussion between Ministers only, and it was agreed that no details of the meeting would be released, other than the fact that it was a constructive discussion.